Open-Air Preaching: A Long and Diverse Tradition

Open access


For many people, open-air preaching is associated with a particularly limited understanding of the nature of the event. In part this is related to the fact that open-air preaching has received relatively little serious academic study. From a variety of sources, however, it is possible to piece together something of a critically analytic sketch of the practice. This sketch demonstrates that not only can open-air preaching claim longevity but that in turn it is a practice with considerable diversity as open-air preachers seek to make meaning through their gathering and encounter with audiences.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Blaikie WG (1888) The Preachers of Scotland: from the Sixth to the Nineteenth Century. Edinburgh: T & T Clark.

  • Bliss J ed (1854) The Works of William Laud volume 4. Oxford: John Henry Parker.

  • Blythe S (2009) Open-Air Preaching as Radical Street Performance. PhD Thesis University of Edinburgh UK.

  • Blythe SM (2011) George MacLeod’s open-air preaching: Performance and counter-performance. Theology in Scotland 18(1): 21-33.

  • Blythe S (2015) James Haldane’s Open-Air Preaching 1797-1805. Baptist Quarterly 46(1): 27-43.

  • Campbell CL (2007) The Preacher as Ridiculous Person: Naked Street Preaching and Homiletical Foolishness. In Academy of Homiletics Papers pp. 149-158.

  • Campbell TA (1991) The Religion of the Heart: a Study of European Religious Life in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock.

  • Christian Institute (2007) The law relating to street evangelism. Online: (Accessed 19 June 2017).

  • Coomes P (2015) (Accessed 19 June 2017).

  • Corfield PJ (1995) Power and the Professions in Britain 1700-1850. London: Routledge.

  • Darby HS (1953) Hugh Latimer. London: Epworth Press.

  • Dargan EC (1968) A History of Preaching: from the Apostolic Fathers to the G reat Reformers A.D. 70-1572 volume 1. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Book House. (Reprinted from 1905 edition).

  • Declaratory Act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland respecting Unqualified Ministers and Preachers (May 28 1799). In Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842. Edinburgh: The Edinburgh Printing and Publishing House pp. 868-869.

  • Davies H (1961) Worship and Theology in England: from Watts to Wesley to Maurice 1690-1850 volume 3. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Duffecy JA (1983) The Truceless Warfare Advances. Citrus Springs FL: Daniels Publishing.

  • Edelman J (2013) The Intolerable Intimate Public of Contemporary American Street Preaching. In Chambers CM du Toit SW and Edelman J Performing Religion in Public. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Edwards A (2017) Kierkegaard as Socratic Street Preacher? Reimagining the Dialectic of Direct and Indirect Communication for Christian Proclamation. Harvard Theological Review 110(2): 280-300.

  • Edwards OC (2004) A History of Preaching. Nashville TN: Abingdon Press.

  • Ewing G (1799) A Defence of Itinerant and Field Preaching: a Sermon Preached Before the Society for Gratis Sabbath Schools On the 24th of December 1979 In Lady Glenorchy’s Chapel Edinburgh. Edinburgh: J. Ritchie.

  • Fant CE and Pinson WM (1971) 20 Centuries of Great Preaching: Wesley to Finney volume 3. Waco TX: Word.

  • Ferguson R (1990) George MacLeod: Founder of the Iona Community. London: Harper Collins.

  • Field DN (2015) John Wesley as a Public Theologian: the Case of Thoughts on Slavery. Scriptura 114(*): 1-13.

  • Frost B (1996) Goodwill on Fire: Donald Soper’s Life and Mission. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

  • Gibson NC (1984) The Fisherman’s Basket: Open-Air and Other Methods of Evangelism. NSW: Mission Publications.

  • Govan Press (5 November 1937) Peace Week in Govan: Assemblies at New Govan Cross.

  • Govan Old Parish Magazine (October 1937) The Cross of Govan.

  • Haldane A (1855) The Lives of Robert Haldane of Airthrey and of his brother James Alexander Haldane 4th edition. Edinburgh: W. P. Kennedy.

  • Haldane JA Aikman J and Rate J (1798) Journal of a Tour Through the Northern Counties of Scotland and the Orkney Islesin Autumn 1779 Undertaken with a view to Promote the Knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ 3rd edition. Edinburgh: J. Ritchie.

  • Hunter GG (1972) Evangelistic Rhetoric in Secular Britain: The Theory and Speaking of Donald Soper and Bryan Green. PhD Thesis Evanston Illinois.

  • Kienzle BM (1998) The Prostitute-preacher: Patterns of Polemic against Medieval Waldensian Women Preachers. In Kienzle BM and Walker PJ (eds) Women Preachers and Prophets through Two Millennia of Christianity. London: University of California Press pp. 99-113.

  • Kirkham G (1888) Hints for Beginners. In Godfrey Holden Pike Beneath the Blue Sky: Preaching in the Open-Air London: Hodder and Stoughton pp. 61-71.

  • Lewis DM (1986) Lighten Their Darkness: The Evangelical Mission to Working-Class London 1828-1860. London: Greenwood Press.

  • Lovegrove D (2000) ‘A set of men whose proceedings threaten no small disorder’: The Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home 1798-1808. The Scottish Historical Review 79(1): 61-81.

  • MacClure M (1958) The Paul’s Cross Sermons 1534-1642. London: Oxford University Press.

  • MacGregor J (1855) Go Out Quickly. London: Blackburn and Burt.

  • Maier CT (1994) Preaching the Crusades: The Mendicant Friars and the Cross in the Thirteenth Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Moynahan B (2003) William Tyndale: if God Spare My Life. London: Abacus.

  • OAC UK. Online: (Accessed 5 July 2017).

  • Open Air Mission. Online: (Accessed 5 July 2017).

  • Old HO (1998) The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: the Biblical Period volume 1. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.

  • Old HO (2004) The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church: Moderatism Pietism and Awakening volume 5. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.

  • Open-Air Evangelism Training Manual (2006). Manchester: OAC.

  • Osborn RE (1999) Folly of God: the Rise of Christian Preaching: A History of Christian Preaching volume 1. St Louis MO: Chalice Press.

  • Owst GR (1926) Preaching in Medieval England: An Introduction to Sermon Manuscripts of the Period c. 1350-1450. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • ‘Pastoral Admonition addressed by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland met at Edinburgh May 23 1799 to all the People under their Charge’ In Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842. Edinburgh: The Edinburgh Printing and Publishing House pp. 870-873.

  • Pike GH (1888) Beneath the Blue Sky: Preaching in the Open-Air. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

  • Rogers C (1876) Memoir of George Wishart the Scottish Martyr. With His Translation of the Helvetian Confession and a Gene-Alogical History of the Family of Wishart. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 4.

  • Saunders SP and Campbell CL (2000) The Word on the Street: Performing the Scriptures in the Urban Context. Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.

  • Schmidt LE (1989) Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • Spurgeon CH (1881) Open Air Preaching—A Sketch of its History. In Spurgeon CH Second Series of Lectures to My Students: Being Addresses Delivered to the Students of The Pastors College Metropolitan Tabernacle. London: Passmore and Alabaster pp. 54-75.

  • Spurgeon CH (1881b) Open Air Preaching—Remarks Thereon. In Spurgeon CH Second Series of Lectures to My Students: Being Addresses Delivered to the Students of The Pastors College Metropolitan Tabernacle. London: Passmore and Alabaster pp. 76-95.

  • Soper D (1961) Advocacy of the Gospel. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

  • Stevenson G and Wright S (2008) Preaching with Humanity. London: Church Publishing House.

  • Stout HS (1991) The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism. Grand Rapids MI: Michigan.

  • Taylor WM (2004) The Scottish Pulpit: From the Reformation to the Present Day Birmingham: Solid Ground Christian Books. (Reprinted from 1887 edition.)

  • Thompson DD (1998) John Wesley as a Social Reformer. New York NY: Curts & Jennings.

  • Walker PJ (2001) Pulling the Devil’s Kingdom Down: the Salvation Army in Victorian Britain. Berkeley CA: University of California Press.

  • Webber FR (c1952) History of Preaching in Britain and America: Including the Biographies of Many Princes of the Pulpit and the Men Who Influenced Them 3 volumes. Milwaukee WI: Northwestern Publishing House.

Journal information
Impact Factor

CiteScore 2018: 0.18

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.100
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.526

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 281 112 8
PDF Downloads 159 93 3